Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Tanjore and Mysore Style of Paintings

Tanjore paintings are eponymously named after a style of painting that flourished in the temple town of Tanjore (Tanjavur) in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Stylistically believed to have emerged in the 16th century during the reign of Nayakarulers, the art received fresh impetus and patronage in the late 17th century with the coming of Maratha rule. Under Maratha Kings, Tanjore was to emerge as a great center of art, architecture, learning, music and performing arts.

Locally called Palagai (wooden plank) Padam (image), this refers to the practice of painting the image on wooden planks, a stylistic peculiarity of the region. This originally votive art form is believed to have emerged from a shift in painting murals to more potable formats. The iconography seen in these images is derived from both theVaisnavite and Shaivite tradition of Hinduism, though exceptions exist with several painting representing other religions and secular themes. The latter include durbar scenes and portraits of sages and rulers.

Tanjore painting have a brilliant and jewel-like tone that its artistscreated by judiciously using real gold and silver foil, precious and semipreciousstones, beads, mirrors, and powdered metals – gold in particular. Besidesthe use of primary colours – red, green, blue, black and white to depict the Gods, infant Krishna is often seen in pink with a marble like translucence while Lord Vishnu, and his incarnations are often depicted with a distinctly green body tone.

The Mysore school of painting sprang in south Karnataka in the reign of Maharaja Mummudi Krishnaraja Wadiyar (1799-1868). Under his discerning patronage the older artistic traditions of the region such as the music, dance, literature and paintings were revived and most of the surviving traditional paintings can be ascribed to this period. These works present a wide variety, frommurals to stylistic Mysore paintings on cloth, paper and wood.

Though often confused by viewers as being similar, the two styles of paintings vary and the differences are largely in the techniques used to create these artworks and in their distinct iconography. The techniques adopted by the Mysore artists are slightly differentfrom those of the Tanjore School. While the latter used white lead(Makhisafeda), Mysore artists used Gamboge (yellow) drawn from the juice of the indigenous tree(RevanaChinnihalu) giving these paintings a golden tint. Asagainst the high relief of the Tanjore 'Gesso' work, the Mysore schoolpreferred low relief, and used pure gold leaf as against gold-coated silverleaf handled by Tanjore artists. 

This purity of gold leaf enhances the lustre ofthe Mysore paintings and made their work more durable. The use of glasspieces and pearls employed in the Tanjore style is also absent in the Mysorepaintings. More elaborate interior landscapesare seen in Mysore paintings, though both styles frequently showtraditional temple pavilions and towers.

Tanjore and Mysore paintings depict episodes from Hindu mythology, epics and the Puranas. What makes these paintings distinct is the multiple cultural influences that seem to have permeated this art form from north India, Deccan and the southern regions of Mysore. These Paintings stand in between the two Indian traditions of mural/miniature paintings, and sculptures carved in low relief. Naturalism, as seen in European Renaissance painting, was not the concern of the South Indianartist with anatomical details being executed conceptually rather than as norms of realism.

 Linearity as depicted in both these styles create a semblance of three dimensionality with the use of light and shade, low relief modeling achieved through the application of successive thick coats of glue, colours, embedded cut stones and the manipulation of varying planes.Bright and warm colours were used essentiallyto heighten decorative elements in what is known as a 'court style'.

Traditionally used for private worship and to honour monarchs, Mysore and Tanjore paintings are a late entrant in the rarified world of museums. The renovated gallery of Tanjore and Mysore style of paintings at the National Museum, New Delhi displays some of the finest historic examples of these two styles of painting from the collection of the Museum, revealing the grand admixture of traditional, spiritual and eclectic strains in the arts of India.

The Gallery comprises 88 paintings. Although almost every painting is unique, some of the masterpieces are examples par excellence.

The great vitality of these works allows us to understand the easy proliferation of these singularly distinct religious icons across the world.

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